Malpighia belongs to the flowering plants of the Malpighiaceae family. Malpighia species is related to the Surinam cherry and Barbados cherry. The plant was named to honor Marcello Malpighi, an Italian botanist and physician in the 17th century, for his extensive work with plants. He is also referred to as the “Founder of microscopical histology & anatomy” and also the “Father of physiology & embryology”.
The Malpighia has around 45 species of shrubs and small trees. Many of these plants are native to the American subtropics and tropics. These plants are also found at rocky hillsides near cool water streams. This is mainly because of the favorable rich and moist soil conditions. Malpighia plants can be collected during the summer months near these areas. They can also be bought at a local nursery in your city or town. You may also be pleased to learn that the Malighia is a hardy tree. You can grow it by planting a seed, pla
ning a hard or soft wood cutting, or even a root cutting taken during the summer.
The Malpighia is a shrub or a small tree that grows anywhere between 1 and 6 m or 3.3 and 19.7 ft tall. They are known to have a dense and, often, a thorny crown. The leaves are relatively thin, long and have a beautiful and luscious dark green color. The flowers of the Malpighia are solitary but bloom in groups of two to four flowers together. Malpighia flowers have five petals and are around 1 to 2 cm in diameter. The flowers have different colors but are most commonly white, pink, red, or purple. Malpighia tree fruit is small and known to be rich in vitamin C. It has two to three seeds and is commonly found in three colors, namely red, orange and purple.
The Different Malpighia Species
There are different species of the Malpighia and it is important to know the common species of this tree if you are going to take care of one. Listed below are the common species of Malpighia are listed below:
1. Malpighia Coccigera:
The Malpighia coccigera is commonly known as dwarf holly or Singapore Holly in many parts of the world. It is also the most common of all Malpighia species. As with most other species, the evergreen M. coccigera is native to the Caribbean islands. It bears beautiful small white flowers and red berries for fruit. Their fruit happens to be the birds’ favorite.
2. Malpighia Emarginata:
The Malpighia emarginata is another tropical fruit-bearing small tree. It is commonly known as acerola cherry and native to Central and South America. However, in recent years, the acerola has found its way to newer regions such as Texas, USA, and countries such as India. Like its distant relative, the acerola fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C. However, it is also known to contain important nutrients such as bioflavonoids and carotenoids. These are important antioxidants and have good nutritive value.
3. Malpighia Glabra:
This species of the Malpighia plant is also tropical fruit- and flower-bearing shrub. The Malpighia glabra is often confused with its relative, the emarginata. However, the two can be distinguished by their different flower structures and small insipid fruits of the Malpighia glabra.
4. Malpighia cauliflora, Malpighia harrisii, Malpighia obtusifolia, Malpighia proctorii are the lesser known species of this flowering and fruit-bearing plant. They are all endemic to Jamaica and unfortunately threatened by habitat loss.
How Long Does it Take to Grow a Malpighia Bonsai Tree?
To begin with, bonsai trees are a miniature form of the natural tree itself. It is an art form that originated in China and Japan centuries ago. The art of growing a bonsai is taking care of the miniature form of a natural tree in a pot. The Malpighia is a strong and hardy shrub that is easy to grow. However, factors such as lighting, watering, and others do play an important role in growing the Malpighia. Listed below are the factors affecting the plant and how keep the conditions optimum while growing the Malpighia.
Being tropical trees, the Malpighia bonsia trees need to be in a moist environment. Therefore, you would need to keep your Malpighia bonsai inside your house in winters. During this time, you can place it in a shallow tray full of gravel and water. This holds the moisture and keeps the tree well hydrated. Additionally, during winters, because of the house heating system, pots tend to dry quicker. The water in the shallow tray will supply the bonsai with ample amounts of humidity. Meanwhile, in summers, you would need to pay close attention to the soil and keep it moist by watering it regularly.
Malpighia bonsai trees love sunlight and around five hours of sunlight in the morning is ideal. In winters, the tree can be kept in direct sunlight, but during summers, you can keep your tree outside your house, in the shade. Alternatively, if you are growing them under fluorescent lights, then they would require around 14 to 16 hours of light a day.
Bonsais need a good amount of water and it is very important that the soil always remains moist. You can use a moisture meter to guide you until you understand how much water your bonsai needs for the day. As far as the amount of water is concerned, water the plant until it begins to leak from the holes at the bottom of the pot.
Being native to the tropics and sub-tropics, they love warm temperatures. They grow well in hotter climates and enjoy the sun. On the other hand, winters are not their favorite time of the year and temperatures below 40 degrees hurt the leaves. Freezing conditions would certainly kill the Malpighia bonsai.
Feeding your Malpighia with fertilizers is vital to its overall growth. Your bonsai has access to a very small amount of soil and the nutrients in the soil get replenished from time to time. Adding fertilizers periodically will keep your Malpighia bonsai healthy and looking luscious. A weak solution of fish emulsion works beautifully for a bonsai and it should be applied at least once a month at half the recommended strength.
How to Plant and Grow Malpighia Bonsai
The Malpighia, especially the M. coccigera species, is a USDA Zone 10b-11 tree. It thrives in the sun and enjoys moderately fertile, moist, and well-drained soil. These are some pointers to consider before moving on to grow the Malpighia bonsai. Here are more points on how you can successfully grow this bonsai.
Common ways to propagate the Malpighia is to take hard or softwood cuttings, root cuttings, or layering, all done during mid-summer and only with warm soil. You can also plant seeds. However, seeds can be tough to obtain due to low availability.
Re-potting is important when it comes to caring for and growing the Malpighia bonsai. The process of re-potting is to encourage a compact root system and supply fresh soil to the tree. Therefore, this needs to be done on a regular periodic basis. Since the Malpighia is an evergreen tree, it can be re-potted once every four to five years. However, the best way of determining this is by monitoring your bonsai’s root system to determine if it has finally become pot-bound. Repotting is usually safely done in mid-summer. The best soil to use is a bonsai soil or alternatively a mix of sand, peat moss, and loam in a ratio of 1:1:2.
3. Placement During Summer, Spring, & Fall
The Malpighia, especially the Malpighia coccigera thrives in spaces with a good amount of light. In fact, this Caribbean native tree enjoys being kept outside during spring and summer. However, when temperatures are low, place your bonsai on or near the windowsill for adequate sunlight.
4. Placement During Winter
As winter approaches and the nights begin to get colder, you should leave your Malpighia bonsai indoors. Keep it on the windowsill facing south, east, or west. If you keep it facing north, you would need grow lights to provide enough light to keep your bonsai growing. Around four to six hours of sunlight for the day should be sufficient.
How To Take Proper Care Of Your Indoor Malpighia Bonsai Tree
Like all bonsai trees, the Malpighia also requires a lot of caring and nurturing. So here are important tips to take care of your Malpighia bonsai tree.
When it comes to pruning a Malpighia bonsai, you can use the clip and grow method. However, you should allow the twig to grow long enough before you trim it. Additionally, the Malpighia bonsai tree requires regular pinching.
2. Pests and Diseases
The Malpighia bonsai does not usually run into a serious pest or disease problems. However, it is a tree nonetheless and will have the occasional spotted leaf or root rot. You would also need to be on the watch out for aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Should you run into pest issues, you can use a home-made insecticidal soap mixture or Indian lilac oil mixed with water.